The Chicago Association of REALTORS®, the “Voice for Real Estate” in Chicago since 1883, represents over 17,000 members from all real estate specialties including commercial sales, development, property management, appraisal, auctions and residential sales.
Author: Rachel Frangos, MSGroup Chicago, Dream Town
The perception the public has is that real estate is an easy career — you can work the hours you want, you don’t have a clock to punch day in and day out, you get to see beautiful homes, and mortgage brokers throw you fancy parties. What they don’t tell you when you’re fresh out of your licensing test is how hard, how grueling, how debilitating and how soul-crushing it can sometimes be to pursue a career in real estate. Finding a mentor is key to protecting yourself from these career killers.
John Crosby said, “Mentoring is a brain to pick, an ear to listen, and a push in the right direction.” Just because you passed a test doesn’t mean you’re prepared to be a real estate agent. A mentor is someone who takes you under their very experienced wing, helps you navigate the tricky waters of negotiation, advises you on the best bang for your buck with marketing, and ultimately will become your biggest cheerleader.
At 21, I started my career in real estate as a full-time licensed assistant. During my two years in that position, I had the opportunity to learn the ins and outs of real estate without having to shoulder the responsibility that comes with being the designated agent. I didn’t have to prospect, make cold calls, solicit expired listings, capture leads, or worry about my next paycheck. When my time as the assistant was winding down, I was forced to think of the options available to me. While I saw the potential for some great commission checks, I also saw the unreliability and instability that a life in real estate could lead to. Having student loans to pay, I got more than a little scared at the prospect of having sporadic income. Despite the nagging feeling in my gut that I could really enjoy a career in real estate, I ended up taking another job.
All that changed when another agent in my office took an interest in my success. Mary Summerville is a force to be reckoned with — she previously owned her own company and has almost 25 years of experience under her belt. Before I was out the door, Mary asked why I wouldn’t be pursuing a career in real estate full time. She told me she really felt I had the drive, the knowledge and the skills to be successful in the industry. She saw in me what she saw in herself when she had started out: a fire, a drive to be successful but also the need for someone to help me know how to channel that into results. She encouraged me to keep in touch and to reach out to her should I ever need anything. A few short weeks later I realized my new position wasn’t working for me and gave Mary a call. She offered me an equal position on her team (very rare for new agents), online & database leads, the opportunity to tap into her 30-year referral network and unlimited access to her partner, Allie Payne, and her expertise. Being their mentee has taught me invaluable lessons. In them, I have mentors who are continually helping me set and meet my goals.
It wasn’t an easy road — Mary has a very high level of service standards. I had to learn how to take a step back and admit that I didn’t know how to do something and look to her to help me learn. A perfect example of that would be handling open houses.
While I had sat open houses when I was an assistant, I wasn’t trying to pick up business at the time. Mary had me shadow her two Sundays in a row, doing two open houses each day. She not only showed me her methods and gave me pointers, but she gave me the opportunity to take the lead and I was able to immediately put into practice what she taught me. I can’t say I picked up even one buyer those two days, but I learned how to approach prospective clients and, most importantly, how to follow up. Eventually, when I picked up my first buyer from an open house, taking them from showings to closing, it was a direct result of that training.
It’s so important as a mentee to take advantage of your mentor’s knowledge, experience and good will. It’s always been hard for me to ask for help and to rely on other people. With Mary, however, I learned that it’s always better to ask before making a mistake, especially in this business. When we had my first multiple offer situation on one of our listings, rather than totally take it over, Mary had me handle it. She had me call her after each conversation, after each counter, and after each update with our seller. Together, we were able to find the best deal for our clients, all while I learned to navigate the tricky waters of multiple offers.
Having been with the MSGroup for over three years now, I really feel this was the best decision I could have made for my career. I’ve learned the skills necessary to be successful in the industry, I’ve honed my strengths and worked on my weaknesses. I have two excellent cheerleaders in Mary and Allie, who have shown me that being in real estate can have its scary times, but if you work at it, it can be one of the most rewarding careers out there. Investing time and energy into finding a mentor who can train you, encourage you, push you to build your business and can hold you accountable to your goals is so important for any agent. This can be a hard, discouraging and lonely business at times, but having someone there to cheer you on, ask questions and be an example to follow, is all it may take to get you to the next level of success.
Author: Mary Summerville, MSGroup Chicago, Dream Town
I’ve always loved teaching and sharing — early on in my 25-plus year career, I became a managing broker; I found it inspiring (and frustrating) to goal set and guide agents on how to work smarter. I owned my own company for 20 years, using that opportunity to recruit and train agents, and I found it very rewarding to pass on my expertise to others. When I sold my company, though, I felt like I had a second opportunity at the business. Not being an owner freed up my time and energy, allowing me to refocus on what I wanted to achieve in my business and my own goals. But after much debate and research, I realized I could achieve far and beyond my professional goals by taking on a mentee. That’s when I decided to partner with Allie Payne and form a team.
I had been working with Alli for several years and saw the drive, the innovative marketing ideas and the care for her clients; I knew she would make an excellent team member. She had just returned to our office after a five-year absence and needed a “start over” with her business. We decided to start working together, forming the MSGroup. This opportunity allowed me to mentor her on best practices when it came to marketing and clients, which in turn, helped us both achieve goals we wouldn’t have been able to alone. After two years, our business had grown so much we started looking for an opportunity to bring another agent to our team.
Rachel Frangos had been working in our office as a licensed assistant. We both saw in her what we had seen in ourselves: the drive to succeed and the willingness to work hard to get there. After Rachel had left our office for another position, I approached her, offering a position on our team. I told her we felt she had what it took to be successful and we wanted to give her the opportunity to be our mentee: to learn the business from us, getting the training and tools to succeed. It has been very fulfilling for me to see both Allie and Rachel learn and grow their careers, and it’s been great for business, as well. I am able to take some R&R and can trust that my business is in good hands in my absence.
My advice to seasoned agents is to take advantage of the many mentoring opportunities available. Every office has a few agents who are newer, or perhaps floundering, who would greatly benefit from being a mentee. Mentorship can take many forms, but the way I chose to mentor was by forming a team, taking on two agents I felt had the desire to learn and the drive to succeed. The team allows me to take time off, focus less on the minutia, and has given me a clearer path to an eventual retirement (or semi-retirement). If you decide to go the team route, I recommend giving yourself two to five years to build and train your team. This gives them the time to absorb and learn how you run your business, and gives you the chance to start slowing down as much, or as little, as you want.
One major key to being a mentor is give your mentee the opportunity to have hands-on learning. For example, I have a large referral network from all my years in the business. I learned early on that to be the best mentor and team leader, I had to incorporate both Allie and Rachel into the business I do with my referrals and past clients. I would have them double with me on showings so they could see how I work with these specific clients and they could understand my standard of service. This led to my being able to not go on as many showings, as Rachel and Allie could handle them. The really important part is to make sure all your clients and referrals know you trust your mentee with your business; if you show your trust, your clients will be comfortable working with them.
Another thing to look for when you’re mentoring are your mentee’s strengths and weaknesses — your job is to help build up those weaknesses, turning them into strengths. When Rachel first joined my team, she had never done a listing presentation, or even sat in on one. I knew she would be great at it, as she had the knowledge and the personality, but she didn’t have the confidence that comes with experience. The first few listing presentations, I took the lead. This allowed her to really see the process and to be a part of it. After each presentation, we would go over what I said, what the client said and how we would follow up. The third presentation we did togethe, I gave Rachel the lead. She was still nervous, often looking to me to fill in, but we got the listing. It’s so important to remember that you have to let your mentee try, and be prepared for either failure or success. As the mentor, it’s your job to support them either way.
If you don’t feel a team is the right path for you, mentoring is still something you should consider. Try to remember when you were starting out and how helpful it was to have a seasoned agent to shadow, ask questions and host open houses. Mentoring a newer agent without forming a team can be just as rewarding. You’re able to pass down your vast expertise, marketing ideas, mistakes and triumphs. It also gives you a backup who you can trust, who knows how you work and what is expected. It’s a wonderful thing to see people succeed and being able to them help along their way is a great feeling.